Man of the In-Between
No Kidding. "Rotcy" changed my life. It opened the door for me to the single most potent educational experience of my life--a brief stint on active duty in the U.S. Army.
In retrospect, military service proved to be more mindshaping for me than four years of college. And more soul-strengthening than seminary.
As I write these words, I glance up at the wall above my computer--and smile. There are no sheepskins there. But there is a faded Ranger school diploma and an old set of Vietnamese jump wings. And pictures of young men. Hal Moore said it best, "We were soldiers once--and young."
We were soldiers for a lot of reasons. One of them was the "bully syndrome."
Many years ago, as a young boy in a cozy little neighborhood in central Washington state, I learned a valuable lesson. Our neighborhood bully, Jimmy C., would never stop throwing dirt clods and using strong-arm tactics to terrorize smaller children.
Yes, we complained. In fact, we begged. But time after time "negotiation" failed. Nothing seemed to work. Until one day one of us gathered the courage to stand up to him. Lying flat on his back Jimmy experienced an amazing change of perspective. He suddenly saw the logic in leaving the little people alone.
Bullies never seem to quit until someone takes the initiative to stand between them and their victims. Recall Goliath, or Hitler, or Saddam, or the devil himself.
The Christian warrior is the "man of the in-between." With mind and heart committed to righteous principle, he offers himself to shield others. The image is thoroughly biblical.
When the Philistines occupied the south ridge of the Valley of Elah, and the Israeli army the opposite ridge, each day the giant of Gath descended to the valley floor between and taunted the champion of Israel.
Saul, head and shoulders above his people, had no heart for the in-between. But Jesse's kid did. To David, it was a straightforward proposition. For the good of others, the giant had to be called to account. Packing his simple shepherd's equipment, David voluntarily stepped between his countrymen and that which would harm them. You know the story. The giant fell, the enemy fled.
Every sane individual seeks peace. We are all "pro-peace." For that very reason, we must also be anti-bully. On occasion, conflict--yes, even the shedding of blood--is necessary to the securing of peace. So it was in entering the Promised Land -- and at Christ's first coming -- and so will it be at His second advent.
That's at least part of the reason why (on a lesser plane, of course) we need the military services in our country and a military science department on our campus. Depravity--and the bully syndrome--will be with us until Jesus comes back.
Hence the warrior spirit must be righteously nurtured. There is a necessary place for it in a liberal arts program.
A thousand years after David faced the giant at Elah, the greater son of David demonstrated the warrior spirit when he climbed a piece of high ground called calvary and faced off with the champion of evil, the bully of all bullies. Warrior that He is, our Christ stood between us and all that would destroy us, deliberately taking the full fury, and shedding His own blood for the rest of us. And, while the outcome was secured at calvary, our Savior's days in battle are not over.
On a day still future, the Lion of Judah will don a blood-spattered robe, mount a war horse, summon His saints, and take up His sword. Then (and only then) will there be peace and safety on our battered planet.
In the meanwhile, there is a place for the warrior spirit in Christian theology, in a constitutional republic, and on a liberal arts campus. A necessary and respected place.
Thanks, Wheaton, for providing it.
Reprinted from Wheaton Magazine, spring 2000. Used by permission of the author.